Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 9: Awards
Nachoem M. Wijnberg The cultural industries are home to an apparent contradiction: competition is denied and glorified at the same time. On the one hand, artists are loath to consider themselves in open competition with each other, like salesmen of second-hand cars; on the other hand, there are few industries in which the phrase ‘and the winner is . . .’ is pronounced more often than in the cultural industries. Awards are the most prominent signs of competition in the cultural industries and, as such, objects of desire, as well as of derision. All the cultural industries have their own awards, and these awards often receive considerable public attention, in itself providing a kind of multiplier to the original effects of the award. Among the best-known examples are the Oscars or the prizes of the Cannes Festival for films, the Booker Prize or the Prix Goncourt for books, the prizes of the Venice Biennale for painting, and the World Press Photo prize for (journalistic) photos. In fact, cultural awards have a long pedigree, in which figure awards with great historical and economic significance, such as the prize of the Athenian Festival of Dionysos for theatre (Aylen, 1985) and the Prix de Rome for painting (White and White, 1993). A partial explanation for the popularity of awards in the cultural industries can be found in the fact that it is one of the salient characteristics of cultural goods that product quality is relatively difficult to establish before or even after consumption. To the...
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